Just like how numerous platters of sweets, exotic lights and exquisite puja ceremonies are an integral part of every Indian festival, fasting is equally integral as it often precedes the festivities. Unlike Muslims who fast throughout the day for Ramadan or Christians who observe forty days of lent, the Jains practice various degrees of fasting. There is complete fasting and partial fasting and there is the Vruti Sankshepa and Rasa Parityaga. When one downsizes an entire spread of a mouth watering thali to just one plain vegetable based item, it’s called Vruti Sankshepa. If you are a Burger or Pizza addict and you struggle to resist a bite of either, you are invariably a participant of Rasa Parityaga. .
One of the most auspicious times for Jains is the Paryushana. Some of them maintain a fast for eight days at a stretch (athai) while others practice ekashana, wherein a person eats just one meal a day, which is usually lunch. Some fast for religious purposes while others fast simply to detoxify their body. Hindus all over India fast on full moons or special events like Shivratri, Janmashtmi, Karvachauth and so on. Navratri is one such festival wherein people fast for nine consecutive days.’
Since they can’t eat any kind of cereal or pulse, they consume milk products, dry fruits, fruits, singhada (Water chestnut) flour, kuttu ka atta (buckwheat flour), samai (saanva in Hindi, moraiyo in Gujarati), potatoes, and cucumbers while fasting. Fruit chaat, vegetable soups, fruit milkshakes, chhaas, vegetable juices, tossed veggies, fruit kheer, singhada roti or bhakhri are the most popular food items for these fasts. Maintaining this diet every two hours keeps low energy levels and severe acidity at bay. Fasting foods are easily digestible by our bodies and they speed up our metabolism rate. One important thing that one ought to bear in mind while fasting is that extreme starvation may wreak havoc within his or her system.
Singhadhe ka atta (water chestnut flour) or kuttu ka atta (buckwheat flour) is used to prepare rotis or puris for the fast. Sendha namak (rock salt) is used instead of common salt. During the fast, dishes made of sabudana (sago) and potato are generally consumed as well as beverages like tea and coffee.
However, the irony is that typical fasts foods are not healthy but fattening. All the foods covered above are usually consumed after being deep fried For example, puris, finger chips, fried potatoes, banana chips, potato chips, sabudana(sago) khichdi, sabudana vadas. So, while you are fasting, you are likely to gain a lot of weight as opposed to losing. Therefore, such foods are terrible for people with diabetes and hypertension. It is thereby pertinent to note that people suffering from diabetes and hypertension should not fast at all, so as to avoid adverse health effects. In urban and metropolitan areas, people work late night shifts. Works, meetings and the sedentary lifestyle deprive them of having food during fasts. For them, good nutrition plays a vital role during these fasts.
Listed below are a few tips and recipes for people who are fasting in spite of a sedentary lifestyle:
1) Use skimmed or low fat milk and curd. Make raita by adding crushed cucumber, finely chopped tomatoes, bottle gourd (lauki) etc.
2) Instead of puris and fried cutlets of buckwheat and water chestnut flour, you can make idlis (steamed food), pancakes, and shallow fried cutlets (tikkis). These are comparatively less fattening and healthy.
3) For detoxification, drink a lot of fluids like lassi, milkshakes, juices, vegetable soups, herbal tea. Besides providing energy, they also maintain the fluid levels.
4) People can consume khichdi made out of samai millet. They should use refined oil or olive oil over Ghee. Fruit chaats are also a good option which will include different colours (pigments) and hence, you can add colour to your diet even when you are fasting.
5) Roast the buckwheat flour on a medium flame, so that the raw odour of the flour goes away. Take two heaped teaspoons of the flour in a glass, add cumin seeds roasted, rock salt, green chillies (finely chopped), curd- 3 tea spoons and add chilled water. Stir it well and a healthy fasting drink is ready to be served or drunk!
6) If you have problem of acidity, then make sure you don’t keep your stomach empty and starve for long. Keep having small frequent meals every two hours and have cold milkshakes, cold milk, lassi, buttermilk, etc. They will not lead to acidity. Milk and curd along with fruits serve as cooling agents. You can also go for coolants like lemon and mint.
7) Instead of fried potatoes which serve you a platter of free trans fats, you can go for boiled potato chat with coriander chutney and lemon. This is very tasty and provides you with a feeling of satiety during fasts.
Navratri is the festive time to celebrate health by eating a variety of healthy foods. The ideal fasting diet should contain colours, a balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Chinmay Somani presented these guidelines for safe fasting to NIF (National Innovation Foundation) on the 5th of October at 5:30 pm.